By Emma Jones.
Our Jazz and Blues festival is best known for the caliber and volume of artists that grace the program each year. To attract such quality (and quantity) is a credit not only to the work of our Artistic Director, our event management and our board but also to the legacy of a ‘friendly festival’.
Each year we hear from performers and fans alike how warmly welcome they feel and how relaxed the shows are. It is common for people to migrate freely between shows, genres and venues in order to make the most of the packed program. In fact, with so many acts and venues it is often a necessity.
Visitors to Jazz country are spoilt with a diverse program of performances and an equally diverse group of venues; each with their own distinct style and personality.
A lot is written about the performers so I thought I’d share my experience of the venues; their unique vibes and the quality they add individually and collectively to our great festival.
Reminisce, catch up with old friends, spend a lovely afternoon or evening comfortably, with meals and drinks and air conditioning, enjoying music that takes you back, it swings, it’s for fun, for dancing, it’s not challenging, it’s pure enjoyment. Great local wine list too!
In many respects very similar to the Pinsent but with more of a concert setting at the front. A great mix of fun and formality.
Busy with the National Jazz Awards, which can be so intense and exciting – the prize means so much to the competitors, and it can be captivating to see ten instrumentalists all perform short sets; to compare them and get to know them. St Pats has delivered some of the most awe-inspiring, high energy, incredible gigs I’ve ever seen at the Festival. They are often the underdog gigs hat surprise and delight. If you couldn’t get into the Wangaratta PAC theatre, you might see what’s on at St Pats instead and find some extraordinary set being played. Or, you really know your jazz and these gigs were always on your list.
This is obviously the place for headliners, for that world class concert experience – you don’t want to be disturbed, you don’t want to eat or chat – you want to sit there and hear/ watch amazing music with the best acoustics. It’s intimate; the venue gives ‘world class’ respect to the musicians.
The standout gigs I’ve seen here have had particular relevance to the local Australian scene. They might be local groups paying homage to an Australian jazz great, or an experimental/ boundary-pushing/ one-off collaboration. The music in here is often challenging/ not mainstream/ experimental but can be immensely rewarding if you’re up for it.
I’m going to confess (pun not intended) that I have been most moved by the concerts in here – to the point of sobbing. I know now to prepare for it. I’m not exaggerating; I have had epiphanies in here. Musical experiences I will always remember. It might just be the place – but it invites spiritual connection with the music. I’ve had spiritual connection in other venues too – but the Cathedral is special. It’s also a good venue for exploring another side to an artist you might not have witnessed before. It’s an experience unique to Wangaratta.
I loved this venue for the community feel, when we were all up dancing, when we were all kicking back during the afternoon, that I could take the kids and at least half listen to the music. It was a social, fun music, great atmosphere to enjoy friends, music, community, best of the region, delivered to an appreciative audience.
Friday nights this is traditionally the place to catch up for that one weekend a year when you can go out and catch up with everyone you haven’t seen in ages and listen to some great bands, have a dance, and marvel at the vibe of Wangaratta. Some people spend the whole weekend in the Blues Marquee, sometimes kicking right back and others up on their feet partying.
Whether you wish to experience them all or settle in at one particular venue, I’d suggest planning your weekend by using the Festival App (available for Apple or Android devices); you can set your itinerary and the app will remind you when and where to go. The app is a very handy tool for navigating a busy program and navigating the venues of Wangaratta but remember it’s the ‘friendly festival’ so if you still want some advice or directions, ask a local or a volunteer. After all, there’s a place for everyone in Jazz country.